CHAPTER XVIII. THE KEY-NOTE OF BRITISH ATTITUDE
The correspondent further reported rumours that this meeting had caused anxious consideration to the managers of the Times, and the decision to step more warily. No doubt this was exaggeration of the political character and effect of the meeting, but certain it is that the political element was present joining hands with anti-slavery enthusiasm. Also it is noteworthy that the last confident and vigorous expression of the "failure" of democracy, from sources professedly neutral, appeared immediately after the St. James' Hall meeting, but was necessarily written before that meeting took place. Blackwood's, in its issue of February, 1863, declared, as before: "Every sensible man in this country now acknowledges ... that we have already gone as far toward democracy as is safe to go.... This is the great moral benefit which we have derived from the events in America." John Blackwood was an intimate friend of Delane, editor of the Times, holding similar views on political questions; but the Times was suddenly grown cautious in reading English political lessons from America. In truth, attack now rested with the Radicals and Bright's oratory was in great demand. He now advanced from the defensive position of laudation of the North to the offensive one of attacking the Southern aristocracy, not merely because it wished to perpetuate African slavery, but because it desired to make all the working-classes as subservient to it as was the negro. It was now Radical purpose to keep the battle raging and they were succeeding. Bigelow believed that the United States might well recognize its opportunity in this controversy and give aid to its friends:
"After all, this struggle of ours both at home and abroad is
but a struggle between the principle of popular government
and government by a privileged class. The people therefore
all the world over are in a species of solidarity which it is
our duty and interest to cultivate to the utmost."
But Adams gave contrary advice. Wholly sympathetic with the democratic movement in England as now, somewhat to his surprise, developed, he yet feared that the extremes to which Bright and others were going in support of the North might create unfortunate reactions in the Government. Especially he was anxious that the United States should not offer opportunity for accusation of interference in a British political quarrel. It is noteworthy that while many addresses to Lincoln were forwarded by him and many were printed in the annual publication of diplomatic correspondence, those that thus appeared dealt almost exclusively with emancipation. Yet Adams was also forwarding addresses and speeches harping on American democracy. A meeting at Edinburgh, February 19, found place, in its emancipation aspect in the United States documents, but the burden of that meeting, democracy, did not. It was there proclaimed that the British press misrepresented conditions in America, "because the future of free political institutions, as sketched in the American Declaration of Independence and in the State Constitutions of the Northern States, would be a standing argument against the expansion of the franchise and the enjoyment of just political rights among us, as well as a convenient argument in favour of the continued domination of our aristocratic parties." The tide of democratic feeling was rising rapidly in England. On March 26, Adams wrote to Seward of a recent debate in Parliament that that body was much more judicious in expressions on America than it had been before 1862. "It will not escape your observation that the question is now felt to be taking a shape which was scarcely anticipated by the managers [of the Times ] when they first undertook to guide the British mind to the overthrow of free institutions in America."
On the evening of the day on which this was written there occurred the greatest, most outspoken, and most denunciatory to the aristocracy, of the meetings held to support the cause of the North. This was the spectacular gathering of the Trades Unions of London at St. James' Hall, on March 26, usually regarded as the culminating effort in Bright's tour of England for the cause of democracy, but whose origin is somewhat shrouded in mystery. Socialist tradition claims that Karl Marx conceived the idea of the meeting and was responsible for its organization. The press generally reported it as a "Bright Meeting." Adams wrote to Seward of the pressure put on him by Professor Beesly, of the University of London, to send a representative from the American Ministry, Beesly expanding upon the importance and high standing of the Trades Unions. To this Adams demurred but finally sent his son to sit in the audience and report the proceedings.